**Sen. the Hon. Katherine Forbes-Smith**
Yesterday, Senator Forbes-Smith, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, welcomed members of the **Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC)** to Grand Bahama on the occasion of their Winter Meeting – a first time visit to The Bahamas for the Federation.
Approximately 600 FDCC members participated in the event, and the Senator took the opportunity to profile not only The Bahamas’ premier position in global hospitality, but noted that this jurisdiction also has distinguished itself as a pioneer in the provision of international financial and corporate services. *“In this latter sphere of our economic activity, although our traditional strengths have been in private wealth management, products and services, we have begun to broaden our focus in recent years to grow both our collective investment funds offering as well as participate more fully in the global captive insurance market,”*she said.
Senator Forbes-Smith pointed out that The Bahamas’ success in financial services has been and remains driven by its natural attributes: a strong institutional framework and a determination to compete on the international stage. She said the country’s commitment to political and fiscal stability, its independent judiciary and no direct tax environment all prove a compelling springboard for new residents to base their essential wealth management requirements in The Bahamas — as well as to make it the domicile of choice for inter-group companies, reflecting the increased internationalization of business.
Since the early 1930s, The Bahamas has developed a thriving private banking, estate planning, asset management, fund administration and corporate services financial centre, and Senator Forbes-Smith affirmed that this has been built on a regulatory framework that adheres to international standards, risk based regulations and a commitment to ongoing dialogue with the private sector.
*“The future remains positive as The Bahamas represents an attractive location where the fundamentals are in tact and institutions and individuals are encouraged to establish not only their domicile, but to develop thriving businesses staffed with highly competent professionals. To meet the expectations and demand of the new global services environment, we are currently engaged in two major modernization exercises in both the insurance and securities sectors that will place The Bahamas amongst the most progressive jurisdictions in the provision of these services.”* Also, complementary to the exercise to enhance the country’s securities and insurance industries is an initiative underway as a joint public/private sector effort to consolidate the regulatory framework for financial service. *”This integration will result in the establishment of a single integrated regulator similar to the Financial Services Authority of the UK, and is set to take place in two phases,”* she said.
With its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the FDCC is an international body with the majority of the membership being based in North America. The Federation was founded in 1936, originally as the Federation of Insurance Counsel. To reflect the broadening of their membership to include corporate and claims professionals, the organisation changed its name to the Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel.
During the course of her welcome remarks, the Senator provided a brief history of the city of Freeport, a 230-square-mile area that was established as a free trade zone some 53 years ago.
Noting that Freeport is one of the main commercial hubs for The Bahamas, she said it accommodates not only a growing international services industry, but also has a successful maritime centre.
Freeport Container Port, a transshipment terminal, is capable of moving over 1.5 million containers annually and plans by the completion of Phase Five of its expansion, to double the current movement of containers. Also profiled were the Freeport Harbour Company which can accommodate the largest ships in the world; Bradford Marine, a yacht repair facility and the Grand Bahama Shipyard, which is home to the largest floating dry dock on the Eastern Seaboard and in this region.
She also told the gathering that many major accounting and legal services are available in Grand Bahama, noting the growing memberships of the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Bahamas Bar Association, both self-governing bodies.